Ghetto Royalty. Daniel Bisuano x Julio Torres
“Second Chances.” Written by Daniel Bisuano. Performed by Julio Torres. Daniel is determined to leave his turbulent past behind by living authentically and pursuing each opportunity that presents itself in his quest to become a screenwriter.
“When I started to write, I started to not only unpack all the pain that I had inside, but I started to create new, happy memories and give back to my community.” – Daniel Bisuano.
Find Daniel on Twitter at @d_bisuano and on Instagram at @d.bisuano.
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Julio Torres, Walter Thompson-Hernandez, Daniel Bisuano
Believe in second chances, no matter how many times the devil got his dances, sometimes people are stuck and repeat. Work, smoke and repeat. When I look at my little sister, I see a younger version of me. I believe in second chances. Because those chances apply to me spent seven years as a child in a cell on repeat, constantly stuck in what I knew the streets, the hood, the crew, I believe in second chances because it should be dead. woke up from a coma, an accident most people would be dead from. Constantly on a journey of self-awareness, I could see that these funny things called second chances applied to my circumstances see, no matter how many times I […] up, someone out there cared enough to see hope in me when I didn’t give a […]. Give me the luxury of second chances. Because second chances are just another way of saying I’ll never give up. second chances for me a freedom in a sense of knowing it’s okay to […] up. If you at least try again. For me as a man, but also being gay. I had to reevaluate everything. Looking inside, I had to give myself a second chance to, to prove to myself that I wasn’t who everyone else made me out to be. That he will never be. I’ve heard that at all and had to really dig deep. Second Chances is a form for forgiveness, not just for the next person. But for me.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 02:40
I’m Walter Thompson Hernandez and this is WRITTEN OFF. That was actor, comedian and writer Julio Torres, reading second chances by IOW Alum Daniel Bisuano. When we first connected with Daniel earlier this spring, he made a simple request. He wanted to make sure that his words came from the mouth of a fellow queer Latino, someone who would be able to identify with his unique struggles, someone who would know the pain of his words firsthand. But it’s certainly not painful anymore, it seems. Daniel’s charismatic and charming as hell of a smile, that’ll instantly put one on your face. He’s enjoying life out in East LA, and working on getting a degree in English. The goal, he says, is to be a screenwriter. He’s definitely got an incredible story to tell.
What’s it feel like having someone read what you wrote? Like, tell me about that feeling?
I don’t know. You know, I’m still taking it in for me. I don’t know I it just sounded cool to hear the way he expressed it and the way he talks, you know, because he’s very calm. And like collected in me, I’m like, woo, 0 to 100. So like, I put a lot of emotions into it. But I like the fact that he just stayed kind of monotone and away and just, you know, he read it really well. For me, this is like a piece of who I am as a person. And I always give back my story to the world. So there’s so much out there that you know, people are reading already and I just feels good. It feels good to know that I’m doing something and creating something that can hopefully make an impact.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 04:33
Has it been a while since you visited this piece of writing?
Well, yeah, I mean, when it comes to like my spoken word, I usually write it in the moment. I don’t really edit it too much. grammatically, maybe but like other than that, like I just, it’s in the moment, those kind of pieces happen. In the moment I’m in this particular writing group called INSIDEout writers and that’s where this came from. We were talking about a second ounces for me, like second chances, you know, are a lot deeper than what it sounds like, you know, because not only do we have to give, or we don’t have to give, but like, we have the opportunity to give people that we care about second chances. But I mean, I love second chances, but also ourselves, you know, and for me, that’s like, the deepest thing, because, you know, I’m my harshest critic, I always have, you know, put myself down the most. So, coming to a point in my life where I could give myself a second chance really just means that I forgave all the things that I did. And I’m moving forward now.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 05:41
I’m wondering, if there’s a difference between giving someone a second chance and giving yourself a second chance?
I don’t know, I think the only difference for me would be it’s easier to give somebody else a second chance. Because like I said, for me, second chances is just another word for forgiveness. So it’s a lot easier for me to forgive somebody else than it is to forgive myself.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 06:06
I want you to kind of talk me through where you were in life, when you wrote this, you said like, it was part of a writing group with IOW, and, you know, we know it’s about taking chances, but like, I want you to really take me there. What was going on in your life, you know, tell me about family life, tell me about friends, like just walk me through that.
Definitely walk down line me if I get emotional, but I don’t know, I think this particular piece stands out to me, because, you know, I was in an abusive relationship for like, six months, I was engaged. You know, it was the first time that I gave my self-opportunity to love but not only just love, love a man, because I came out when I was 19. And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And it still is, you know, every day I struggle with the fact that I’m gay. So, you know, I was going through the abusive relationship, and then it had ended. And I was just in a deep depression, I didn’t know what to do. So I started to surround myself with people, I started to, you know, go to a lot more groups, like inside our riders, and I just really delve into like, involving myself in the community and surrounding myself with love. And I think in this particular moment, you know, I was in a place where I finally learned how to love myself again, because I was so stuck on the fact that I needed somebody else to love me, to make me feel worth it, that I forgot how to love myself. And I was finally getting out of the gutter. And I was starting to, you know, be happy again, and learn how to love myself. And, you know, I cut off the toxic relationship. And, you know, opportunities started flowing back into my life, because I lost a lot of jobs over this. But I was able to pick myself up and give myself that second chance.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 08:04
Thanks for sharing that. You also mentioned that, you know, it’s kind of been a struggle for you, since you came out. Like if you want to talk about, like, what the biggest struggle has been?
I mean, it’s more than just one struggle. But I think the biggest struggle is learning how to accept myself, you know, society and religion constantly tell me that I’m wrong, or I’m a sin, or there’s something or it’s a choice. But for me, you know, like, it was never a choice. It was always there. If I had a choice always explain it, I choose to be straight, because it would have been easier for me.
I’m also wondering, like, how you’ve explored, and like, I don’t just want to focus on the struggle aspect, right? Because there’s probably so much more to do than, like, you know, then the pain and trauma that like, you know, a lot of us deal with, right, but in terms of like writing, like, how has writing sort of provided you a space to explore that?
I mean, it was really the only space that I knew how to express myself, you know, it gave me the opportunity to express to the world who I really am, versus, you know, my sexuality, because a lot of the time for many years like I always use my sexuality as my identity. And so when I started to write I started to not only unpack all the pain that I own inside, but I started to be able to create new happy memories and give back to my community by showing them that we’re not alone and that we don’t have to do it on our own. So it gave me a sense of community and it really helped me who and helps me unpack you know?
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 10:02
Where is home for you?
Home is wherever I’m at. But home for me is, you know, the place where you’re surrounded by people you love. You know, the place where you’re the happiest, the place where you feel safe. You know, I could say this little apartment two-bedroom apartment I’m in like, is my home, but it’s not because in a couple years, I’ll probably move on from this and move to something else. You know, Bahamas wherever I’m at. And wherever my heart’s at.
Absolutely. And like, Where did you grew up in LA, like, I’d love to learn more about that.
Oh, well, I grew up all over the place. So my life’s a little bit hectic, especially when I was younger. But I grew up in hotels for the most part when I was young. And then when I got to, like round 1213, I kind of stayed in one area for a while, which was Monrovia. And that’s like, kind of like when I got involved in the gangs and stuff. And then from there, I moved to the projects in East LA. And then I just kept moving, you know, for when I was 17, my mom left me, you know, so I kind of had to like figure things out. And I would just jump from place to place. Or, you know, when it came to the end of like that journey, you know, I was in a homeless shelter. And now I’m here in my own apartment.
Like I love to learn when you started writing, like were you writing, while going through all of that, or like did writing come to kind of after that?
I started writing when I was incarcerated. And I started writing letters, you know, obviously to like my loved ones expressing how I feel, asking for forgiveness, so on and so forth. And then it just started to morph, because INSIDEout writers was in it was in jail, too. So I learned a lot through there. But I think the biggest impact like writing had, you know, on that particular journey was, I remember I was in the shoe, because I had a cast on and I couldn’t walk up to the unit. So they house me and shoe. And all it was very crazy. There was people screaming all day, there was people there that were violent, that you know, were in the shoe for stabbing some other people or fighting or whatever. So I kept the Journal of every day I would write, you know, it sounds bad. But I’d write all the negative stuff that would happen in there to remind me of why I didn’t want to go back. So I think that was like when writing started to really have an impact on me because it gave me the opportunity to see what I’m doing wrong and to see what’s wrong in my life. And to learn how to move on from that.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 12:45
The first piece of writing that you ever did? How old were you? What did you write about?
I couldn’t tell you. I’ve done so much since then. But I mean, it has to be when I was incarcerated, you know, I mean, that journal, I feel like would be the first piece of writing that I did, I don’t have it anymore, you know, I was homeless, and a lot of stuff got lost. But another piece of writing that stands out to me is basically, I co-authored a policy brief, to basically help change the cap system to create a more therapeutic model. And that was a different kind of writing. But it was still based on my life. So I think that was like, kind of like, one of my biggest pieces back then that I’ve ever wrote.
So there’s like, the two words, ghetto, and royalty. What do they mean to?
Ghetto means I’m poor. And royalty means I’m rich. But basically, for me ghetto royalty means that you know if you’re part of gang or you’re a drug dealer, or you’re on top of that, kind of like I don’t know community, basically and you’re the one running things that’s like get ghetto royalty. So you know, they say royalty, like Beyonce is royalty in the music industry. Well, my family was royalty in the drug industry. So that’s what I mean by ghetto royalty. We didn’t live in mansions and stuff. But we didn’t live in shacks, either.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 14:23
Right. So that’s your family. And if you could talk me through your chosen family, and kind of like what they meant to growing up.
Yeah, definitely. So you know, I’m a loner, I’m a big loner, I suck out relationships, friendships, you know, most of my life. I’ve been hurt, you know, so it’s hard for me to trust people. But you know, my chosen family is the people that care about me no matter what, you know, they don’t care if I’m gay, they don’t care. If I make mistakes and they don’t judge me. They’re there and they love me for who I am. Blood family just means that you know they’re blood, they share the same blood. And I mean, the differences like, you know, my family disowned me, my blood family and my chosen family took me in.
What’s that relationship like today?
Non-existent with my blood family. I mean, I talked to my mom-in-law, but she’s toxic, you know. And that’s pretty much it, chosen family. I’m still learning how to navigate that road in those relationships. But a lot of the people that I once called mentors are now my friends or like moms to me or brothers. So I definitely, you know, has helped me and impacted me in a big way. And now those relationships have definitely grown.
Totally, I’m gonna read you a part of what you wrote. And I want you to, you know, think about it and tell me kind of like what it means to you. Okay? Constantly on a journey of self-awareness, I could see that these funny things called second chances apply to my circumstances. See, no matter how many times I’ve […] up, someone out there cared enough to see helping me when I didn’t give a […],
Daniel Bisuano 16:12
Oh, powerful. For me, that just means that, you know, there was a point in my life where I didn’t care whether I lived or I died. You know, I didn’t care about a future because I didn’t see one. So what I’m saying there is basically somebody continued to instill and see in me what I could not see myself. You know, they kept planting seeds, saying, You’re worth it, you’re better than this, you don’t belong here. Until finally I was able to change it around. And, like I said, learn how to apply that second chance myself. And basically forgive the things that I’ve done. Because they gave me the inspiration to do so.
If you could imagine a life without writing for you. What things look like?
I don’t think I’d be alive. I was meant to write I was, you know, like that’s, that’s a skill. God gave me if you believe in God. But, you know, when I, when they say, figure out what makes you happy, and turn it around and turn it into a job that’s writing for me, you know, I love writing and it’s just a piece of who I am. I’m a talker, I’m writer, I don’t do no heavy labor, I’m not gonna lift stuff up. You know, I don’t think I’d be here if writing didn’t exist, because that I feel like is why I’m here. The reason I’m here is to share my story with the world and hopefully create an impact and help change.
And what’s your writing process like today? Like? Are you still writing daily? What are you writing about? Like happenings have like, what you’re writing about change from today? Like maybe like, five, six years ago?
Daniel Bisuano 18:12
Yes. And no. I mean, I still, like back then I wrote a lot more about trauma and pain, because I was stuck in that loop. Now I actually have, you know, an opportunity to write about success, and you know, what it means to be happy as well. For me, my writing has changed, and it will continue to change because, you know, I just finished up the theater play, which was a different version of writing. And then I’m also doing a memoir about my life right now. You know, and then I still do my spoken word, but those are the three forms of writing I’m doing right now.
Like, I also wants you to, like, you know, go beyond writing, right? Like, who are you? What are you listening to? What are you watching? What do you do in your free time?
So this is what I say to that I’m, I don’t know who I am. I’m still learning and I’m gonna continue to keep learning. I spent seven years of my life incarcerated. I spent even more time of that being somebody I wasn’t. So right now, I’m figuring out who I am. But for the most part, I’m a person that loves to give back to my community. I’m a businessman. I want to make money and ultimately, I just crave happiness, I always say I’m on the pursuit of happiness. But for me, like right now, I’m working five jobs. I’m an organizer and advocate. I do policy work. I work out the school, I’m also doing my writing stuff. And I’m working with the theatre company. I’m all over the place. I’m just trying to figure it out. So I’m just a young man trying to figure out his life and not trying to live in poverty because the cycle is real and I’m trying to break it. You know, I’m not trying to be looked at as a number, I’m not trying to be a convict anymore. I want to be seen for who I am, I want to be seen for my talent, for my skills. And for my hard work. You know, for me, I feel like I’m just another Latino, trying to find his way, you know, and I just have circumstances that didn’t agree with finding my way.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 20:22
Right? You mentioned that you’re writing a memoir. What’s that process been like?
It’s been difficult, you know, because sometimes I could only write five minutes. Sometimes I could write 30, sometimes more than that. But for me, it’s a healing process. And really, that’s the reason why I started to do it, is to help myself heal from all the pain that I went through. And hopefully they share my story, that we could help the next person, but the process is I write what I can. And then if I get emotional, I pull out a joint and I smoke. Just kidding. But I mean, it’s been hard, because a lot of stuff, you know, pops up that I don’t even remember. And, you know, it makes me feel like, really sad or depressed sometimes. But I slowly chip away at it. And yeah.
No, it’s funny that you say that, because like, I’m also in the process of writing a memoir, too. And I think, for me, like you, what’s been like the hardest part, it almost seems like I have to enter, like a room every day. Right? Like a dark room. And sometimes, like, I don’t want to enter that room. And I’m wondering if you also feel that too?
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I definitely feel that, you know, I think the difference is that I’m entering that room every day already. You know, because I have triggers and traumas that still pop up in my life that I have to deal with, you know. So I’m kind of used to a dark room, I think, for me, it’s learning how to find the light in that room.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 22:00
What would Danie today write to the younger version of you?
I don’t know. That’s a hard one. Because, you know, I was in a different place than I was in the Daniel, you know, today. So I don’t know what I would tell that Daniel, because that Daniel wasn’t Daniel, that Daniel was least on that Daniel was the game that Daniel was the monster that I created in my head. For me, I don’t think there would be anything I could tell that version of myself, except just to keep pushing forward to keep moving no matter what, which I did in which I was doing and will continue to do you know, but that version of myself would have told myself now to shut the fuck up and get out of my face. So I was in a very tough spot, I didn’t want to live, I didn’t care, you know, about life, and I didn’t see a future. So I don’t think anybody could have told me anything, a future self or not.
What’s like one piece of writing in the future that you’re really looking forward to?
Well, you know, what, I want to be, you know, a filmmaker, and I want to write film. So I definitely would love to write a short TV show about based on my life. I think that is what I would be looking forward to, would be to showcase my talent and to showcase You know, my story to the world through film. And, and I think that would be the best way to write a little short TV series.
Is there a question that I didn’t ask that you would love to just answer on your own?
I don’t know. You got pretty in depth, you know, but for I think, I would just say, Why do I want to give back so much, and why do I want to do it through writing? And my answer to that is because if somebody could give back to me, I wouldn’t be alive today. So I feel like the reason why I’m here is to help uplift my community.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 24:10
That’s really great. Thank you so much, like this has been really, really cool. Appreciate you.
Yeah, thank you.
Thanks again to Daniel, who you can find on social media at @d.bisuano or visit his bisuanoa.wixsite.com. Move by what you heard today. Want to do more? Follow and support InsideOUT Writers Workshop at insideoutwriters.org and click on ways. To get involved personally in the work to end mass incarceration in California. Check out the work of ARC, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition at antirecidivism.com. Next week on WRITTEN OFF, writer Frank Jimenez.
Is it’s very chilling like it’s calming just the way it was read. It’s the way I was writing it. The way I was interpreting My head was just utter chaos. And just hearing it playback, it’s so subtle, is smooth. And it’s it allows me to see my work in a different way. And I’m kind of got the chills.
WRITTEN OFF is a co-production of Lemonada Media and Black Bar Mitzvah. Our producer is Claire Jones. supervising producers are Xorje Olivares and Kryssy Pease. Executive producers are Aaron Bergman, Jay Ellis, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs. Music and sound design by Xander Singh. Mix and scoring by Matthew Simonson. Special thanks to all of our contributors, and InsideOUT Writers, you can learn more about them at insideoutwriters.org. If you like what you heard, help others find us by rating the show and writing a review. Follow us at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms. To support WRITTEN OFF and gain access to exclusive bonus material. Like additional conversations with the writers and producers of this show. Subscribe to Lemonada Premium, only on Apple podcasts. And for more of my work, visit my website wthdz.com. I’m Walter Thompson Hernandez. Thanks for listening.